If you’ve followed the Arizona Wildcats this season, you’d know that no lead is safe. That as quickly as UA’s frenetic offense can build a 10-point lead, its defense can let it slip away.
Maybe the best example of that happened Thursday at ASU. Arizona trampled the Sun Devils out of the gate, building an 18-point cushion midway through the first half. But as the halftime buzzer sounded, the Wildcats only led by one measly point.
Then Arizona trailed by as many as seven points before it regained control of the game and won 77-70.
“After five minutes, I thought Arizona was going to run ASU out of the gym,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said.
Which means Fraschilla evidently hasn’t watched much Arizona basketball this year, because that was the eighth time this season the Wildcats have blown (or nearly blown) a double-digit lead.
That is crazy. But do you know what is crazier? Arizona has won every single one of those games. A perfect 8-0.
(Note that in some of these games, the opponent didn’t quite tie the game after being down by 10+, but they did bring the deficit within one possession.)
This is unbelievable: Arizona is 8-0 now in games in which it blew a double-digit lead down to a 2-point lead or worse. Won twice now vs ASU that way: pic.twitter.com/UypuMsM5Ad— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) February 16, 2018
What that tells you is two things. One, Arizona is terribly inconsistent. I mean, we saw that against the L.A. schools when the Wildcats looked awful against UCLA then, two days later, had one of their best performances all season against USC.
And two, Arizona is good at winning close games. The Wildcats are 10-4 in games decided by single digits.
“Our guys know how to win,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller after his team squeaked by ASU. “We’ve won a lot of ball games.”
But surrendering big leads to have the game decided in the final moments is one of those “if you’re playing with fire, eventually you’re going to get burned” scenarios.
The Wildcats haven’t been burned yet, but in the NCAA Tournament, when the level of competition will be ramped up significantly, maybe they finally will.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire